June 18, 2007

Soften hands, save shots

Keep tabs on your grip pressure to be a good chipper

Athletes in other sports—wide receivers in football, centers in basketball, for example—depend on soft hands to get the job done. So do golfers, especially on touch shots like chips and pitches.

One of the worst mistakes I see amateurs make in chipping is gripping the club too tightly or changing their grip pressure from the practice stroke to the real thing. Most often that activates the wrists and leads to a quick, stabbing motion. I recommend light grip pressure (about 4 on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the tightest) to ensure a lack of tension in your arms and softness in your hands. Then you simply use the basic chipping technique—ball toward the back of a slightly open stance to promote ball-first contact, chin high and back straight. Start the backswing with your shoulders and accelerate through.

I try to return my arms to the position they were in at address and keep my eyes focused on the back of the ball. Just like in putting, my head remains still long after impact. That not only ensures solid contact but improves my accuracy and distance control.

Remember: Keep that grip pressure constant.

Mark Soltau is a contributing editor to Golf Digest and the editor of TigerWoods.com.